Holmes, professing his admiration for people who dedicate themselves to something, even if it’s “trivial,” succinctly captured the spirit of what being an Enthusiast is all about.
The word comes from the Greek “enthousiastēs,” which means “a person inspired by a God,” hence intrinsically, there’s a deep, spiritual element. Some enthusiastic hobbyists (another word for enthusiast) are so passionate about their interest that it seems as if they’re inspired by a higher calling - something larger than us mere mortals. It’s no wonder that chasing a passion gets peoples’ blood pumping like a heat-seeking missile.
That’s why serving enthusiastic fan by bringing like-minded communities together and creating new tools they need to explore their interests is such a sacred privilege.
If you’re asking yourself: Am I an Enthusiast? Yes, you are. Exploring our passions is a humbling experience as there’s both an individual and collective power to it. As individuals, it sustains us during our idle moments, when we’re stuck in traffic, or standing in line at Starbuck’s thinking about the big game or an upcoming trip to Disneyland or reading the next chapter of a riveting novel. Then there’s the collective experience of engaging in the activity, when we find ourselves surrounded by strangers, yet, for indescribable reasons, feeling as comfortable with them as we do with our next-door neighbors.
Interestingly, studies have shown that most Enthusiasts have multiple interests and that they seek to pursue them at the same time, and for good reason – they’re often connected. For example, when camping, 60% also hike, 50% also fish and 38% also kayak.
There are psychological and health benefits to being an Enthusiast. First, pursuing your special interest reduces stress. It's a great way to distract yourself and have some “me time” after a busy day of work. According to a recent study conducted by the Australian Psychological Society, 80% of participants reported that spending time pursuing their Enthusiast areas helped them manage their stress.
Further, engaging in creative pursuits like knitting, DIY, photography and music helps increase positive moods and emotions. They also expand neural connections in the brain, which leads to the release of dopamine. Also, connecting with other like-minded enthusiastic people leads to a feeling of community and belonging and less depression, anxiety and stress.
Dr. Rosebud Roberts, a leading researcher with the Mayo Clinic, found that pursuing special interests and hobbies reduces the risks of mild cognitive impairment. As most elderly people are affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia, knowing that we can do something about it is incredibly powerful.
Enthusiasts can’t be neatly defined, because an interest in one area inevitably leads to discovering another, new interest. There are almost as many different types of hobbyists as there are people on the planet. From baseball card collectors to neon sock fans, from astronomy lovers to insulator collectors - and everything in between - if there’s a special interest out there, there’s a community of people devouring information about it as ravenously as a box of Krispy Kreme donuts.
The economic impact of hobbyists and passionate people is, in a word, massive. Some of the most basic things the average person wouldn’t consider special interests indeed are. The travel industry generates over $1.6 trillion in economic output per year in the U.S. alone. That’s trillion with a “T.” And, in related news, a total of $887 billion is spent every year just on the top 10 American outdoor Enthusiast categories.
The special interest of crafting creates $44 billion annually. And, as far as entertainment goes, last year, Americans spent a whopping $56 billion on attending sports events, the global film industry was worth $136 billion and the gaming industry contributed a staggering $152 billion to the worldwide economy.
In other words, supposed “leisure” spending is anything but. It’s an integral part of the economy.
As a new platform with an infinity network of categories where members learn, interact and create, it’s crucial to examine how people discover new information about their interests and enrich themselves, especially considering that 83% of American adults who are online (over 170 million U.S. adults) pursue their interests on the web. However, the answer to “how” they follow their passion is, paradoxically, both simple and broad. First, the simple part. Enthusiastic people explore - that’s what they do. But the reality is that there’s no limit to what “explore” means.
Whether it’s attending a fountain pen conference to learn about a revolutionary new nib or going to the World Ag Expo to feast your eyes on a new high tech hay baling machine, whether it’s writing a craft beer blog about a just-released scrumptious IPA or making new friends in the “Space” Enthusiast Group and comparing notes on a telescope, the only requirement of being an Enthusiast is that you actively explore in some way. The mechanics of “how” are up to you.
If you’re passionate about literally anything, you’re an Enthusiast - but what kind? Because every interest is special, it’s impossible to neatly categorize or label all interests. To jumpstart the process, we’re casting a wide, but manageable, net of seven different Enthusiast groups under which “micro” areas are grouped.
Here they are:
• Nature Enthusiasts
• Out-of-This World Enthusiasts
• You Had To Be There Enthusiasts
• Collectible Enthusiasts
• The Great Indoors Enthusiasts
• Thriller Enthusiasts
• Yummy Enthusiasts
Are You A Nature Enthusiast?
Surprise, surprise: Nature Enthusiasts are into the great outdoors. This large, all -encompassing category includes everything from agriculture, camping, nature and fishing to birdwatching, gardening, and National Parks fans.
Agriculture Enthusiasts are an integral, defining constituency among Nature Enthusiasts, but the truth is, you don’t have to be an Ag Enthusiast to be affected by the world of agriculture every single day. For example, if you eat and drink, and we’re quite sure you do, then congratulations, you’re influenced by agriculture.
Agriculture is America’s main export. U.S. exports feed the global population. There are more than 2 million operating farms in the U.S. today. California, the number one ag-producing state in the union, is responsible for more than $50 billion a year in revenue. And NASA has already started an intergalactic ag endeavor. Yes, it’s true, the government is farming on Mars already.
Agriculture Enthusiasts take many different forms. It may be as tangential as loving farm-related movies like FIELD OF DREAMS, THE HORSE WHISPERER and BABE. Or Ag Enthusiasts may eagerly attend the World Ag Expo in Tulare California. Or they may be really into hemp products like CBD oil and hemp clothing. Or perhaps they’re an enthusiastic carnivore like comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan. Whatever the case, there are millions upon millions of Agriculture Enthusiasts the world over.
Campers are another significant portion of this category. They love freedom, adventures and, obviously, nature. While camping didn’t become one of the great American pastimes until the 1900s, it has truly grown into a massive industry. Over 41 million Americans participated in car, backyard or RV camping per year and spend almost $31 billion on camping equipment alone plus another $135 billion in related expenses annually, according to an “Outdoor Rec Report.” That’s a lot of campfires.
From tents to cast iron skillets, from ghost stories to S’mores, what could be more All American than camping? Is there anything* that’s more red, white and blue than cooking a hot dog over a campfire and snuggling in a sleeping bag?
* Besides baseball and apple pie…
Are You An Out Of This World Enthusiast?
The next category is the Out Of This World Enthusiast. This group has seen massive growth over the last 50 years, given the explosive advancements in aviation, space exploration and high tech. This type of Enthusiast also brings to mind hot air balloonists and, of course, sci-fi aficionados. Out Of This World Enthusiasts are known as being so dedicated to their causes, their motto should be “do or do not, there is no try,” to quote Yoda.
A subset of this category is Space and Astronomy fans, who are as varied as the stars. There are sci-fi movie aficionados. There are those who love reading biographies about astronauts. Some people in this category are so dedicated to stargazing that they travel to Zion National Park to do it. Or some go to Area 51 hoping to get a glimpse of an alien, or at least a spaceship. Certain Space fans are obsessed with space-related fashion. It may even be something as esoteric as studying astrophysics to get an edge on other recruits for the new U.S. Space Force. Whether they attend a Space Camp or obsess over the Bootes Void, people who are passionate about space are a varied bunch. But what they certainly all have in common is sky high dedication.
Tech fans, not to be confused with “Star Trek” fans, are obviously closely related to Space Enthusiasts, given that without high tech, there would be no space travel. Some of them follow Jeff Bezos’ exploits while others have their own 3D printing club or are obsessed with all things 5G. One thing is for sure, this is one of the fastest growing subsets of the category because… science.
Are You A “You Had to Be There Enthusiast?”
Members of this category are also referred to as “Experiential Enthusiasts,” people whose raison d’etre is going to physical events that involved experiencing, folks who love to get out into the world, travel and feel.
While this is a slightly smaller category than Nature Enthusiasts, it encompasses some of the most adoring buffs out there. Travelers, Festival Lovers, Train and Railway fans and Baseball Stadium experts are all aboard the “You Had To Be There” train.
Trains and Railways Enthusiasts
Train and Railway Enthusiasts are one of the most important groups within the You Had To Be There category. Train culture is woven into every period of American history and railways are fundamental to who we are as a society, not just in America, but in the world. Plus, there’s something whimsical and magical about train rides that satisfy all of one’s senses at the same time, from the sound of the train on the tracks, to that diesel smell, to the feeling of shaking the conductor’s hand as they take the ticket. And, given how trains are so fundamental to our past, there’s something nostalgic about them, from movies like Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL, in which he plays a train conductor, to the long, rich history of scale model trains.
But riding the rails isn’t just an important part of the past, it’s also a key part of the present and the future. In 2018, railroads moved 2.4 million carloads of fertilizers and plastics, nearly 1.5 million carloads of agricultural goods and about 1.6 million carloads of food products. Every day, over 600,000 passengers travel to and from New York City’s Penn Station. And expos and conferences dedicated to scale models of train sets are alive and well, including the Gehams Model Train Show in Bakersfield, California.
Baseball joins trains with a spot in the “Americana” pantheon. From the Babe to Sandy Koufax, from Yankee Stadium to Fenway Park in Boston, from Cracker Jacks to the Seventh Inning Stretch, this sport is synonymous with the U.S. of A. Clearly, ballparks and stadiums are an integral part of enjoying the baseball experience. With the average Major League Baseball team worth $1.78 billion, baseball is not only a pastime, it’s a hugely important business in the American economy.
In addition to the 30 Big League ballparks to visit, there are also 261 Minor League parks (some in more need of a facelift than others) that are perfect places to catch a game and get some small town flavor at the same time.
Baseball aficionados take on many forms, such as baseball card collectors and Moneyball statistics junkies, but one of the most interesting groups of people are Ballpark Enthusiasts, some of whom have been to every single Major League ballpark.
Are You A Collectible Enthusiast?
This particular group is “all about the details.” For people who collect things like coins, stamps, pens, timepieces, and even tattoos, they consider it less of a hobby or aninterest and more of a way of life. Many of these people have more zeal for their “craft” than anyone, just ask one of the attendees of the 2020 National Money Show. Among Collectible fans, some of the most dedicated among them are those who love Fountain Pens.
Fountain Pens Enthusiasts
Fountain Pen Enthusiasts love talking about their pens almost as much as vegans love talking about their diets. Fountain Pens are such wonderfully human writing tools in that they’re elegant, smooth, and, well, disagreeable. The ink flow isn’t always even, and therein lies the charm. In this digital age, fountain pens are a connection to an analog world and perhaps that’s the reason why fountain pen sales are actually up.
There are so many fun fountain pen facts: Leonardo da Vinci was an early adopter, using one of the first editions of fountain pens during the Renaissance in the 1400s. Fountain Pens have been used as weapons more than a few times in pop culture history. Mark Twain was such a fan of his beloved Conklin Crescent Filler pen that he was their pitch man – yes, Mark Twain was one of the first celebrity endorsers. Amy Tan is a fan too. Finally, Sylvester Stallone is one of the most surprising fans of fountain pens out there. Montegrappa’s “Chaos” pen is the first in the Sly-designed “cult series” and features reptiles, skulls, a sword, and solid 18k gold. The price tag of $12,000 might be characterized as a “knockout punch.”
One of the best expos and conventions in America is the Los Angeles International Pen Show, held every year in Torrance, California. While it’s a niche convention, it’s a show that inspires such immense passion where Fountain Pen Enthusiasts of every stripe, from pen repairmen to vintage collectors to obscure vendors, interact and learn from one another.
While not obviously falling within the “Collectible” category, tattoos are, indeed, properly classified here. From the relatively recent face tattoo explosion to the proliferation of lower back tattoos in the late 1990s, tattoos have essentially become ubiquitous in not only America, but throughout the world.
Tattoos and body art have especially taken off with the millennial set – 36% of Americans between 18 and 29 have at least one body art item. Including body piercing and tattoo removal, this industry is worth over $3 billion per year. One of the most interesting things about these Enthusiasts is, the fact that tattoos can literally be “worn on your sleeve” means it’s much easier to identify others with the same passion. That said, 72% of adults with tattoos obscure them with clothing.
Are You A “The Great Indoors Enthusiast?”
Some Great Indoors Enthusiasts love playing Scrabble with their family, even if it sometimes almost comes to blows. Some game aficionados put on their headset and playing Fortnite for five-hour chunks. Others curl up in their favorite chair with a Cormac McCarthy novel and get transported to another world. Some participate in woodworking or quilting or making indoor planters out of old plastic Sprite bottles. A few have their own podcast. In other words, the world of being a The Great Indoors Enthusiast is vast.
Some of the more popular components of this special interest category include:
Do-It-Yourself refers to building, modifying or repairing something on your own, which applies to millions and millions of activities. Some DIY addicts make their own log planter, others re-do the baseboards in their home, some make a heart garland out of felt while others affix Canadian “loonie” dollars to a vest. DIY encompasses so many things. In fact, there’s a whole “Fresh Air” component of DIY, for example, outdoor home improvement woodworking projects.
The value of the worldwide DIY market is about $44 billion. And in the U.S., home improvement stores generate yearly revenue in the neighborhood of $140 billion. You don’t need your Aunt Martha to confirm that DIY is an Enthusiast category titan.
Board Game Enthusiasts
This is one of those subset groups that sneaks up on you, as in it may not be the most obvious area of interest. But when you really break it down, you realize that board games likely played at least a small part of your childhood. Whether you’re a fan of one of the “Holy Grail Of Board Games” (Chess, Checkers, Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or Sorry!), the classics, or you gravitate to newer games like the most smart ass game in history - Cards Against Humanity – or you’re an addict of Role Playing Games like Dungeons And Dragons or RPG video games, this pursuit inspires real emotion, nostalgia and love.
There are so many avenues to explore an interest in board games, from websites to forums to expos, like the Penny Arcade Expo, which attracts over 70,000 people to its various events, or Gen Con, which focuses on RPGs and Board Games and has over 60,000 attendees every year.
Are You A Thriller Enthusiast?
This is a category that’s not for everyone, and that’s probably a good thing. After all, if everyone were a thrill seeker, it would be complete and total anarchy. If you don’t belong to this category, you probably know someone who is, and that someone has for sure talked your ear off about their particular special interest. From car lovers to motorcycle fans, from roller coaster riders to surfers, for thrill seekers, it’s all about the adrenaline rush, so it’s no surprise how dedicated they are to their cause.
Some Automobile Enthusiasts are experts in all things Tesla. Others dedicate both days of their weekends to restoring a ’55 Chevy Bel Air. Other Car Enthusiasts live to attend classic Porsche 911 trade shows and conferences. Others manifest their passion by simply perusing Auto Trader and surfing the Car And Driver website.
Whatever the case, the auto industry is synonymous with American ingenuity, from Henry Ford to John DeLorean to Elon Musk, and thus it’s a very important segment of the Thriller Enthusiast category and, as mentioned earlier, the American economy.
Besides the fact that the U.S. auto industry is worth approximately $550 billion a year and employs around 18 million people, the sheer delight it inspires within the people who work in it, and the people who chase their passion in cars, is second to none. The other fascinating thing about this Enthusiast area is the number of people who have made the “interest to industry” jump – that is, people who turned their love of cars into their livelihood.
Theme Park Enthusiasts
From Disney regulars to Six Flags fans, theme parkers are another important subset of the Thriller Enthusiast category. Every year, approximately 21 million people visit Disney World alone. And, with over 600 roller coasters operating in amusement parks across the country and roughly 1,500 worldwide, that’s a lot of adrenaline junkies.
And theme parks keep evolving with the times, upping the thrill ante. For example, at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, The Walking Dead attraction, with intense sound effects, visual effects and actual zombies (well, actors pretending to be zombies) is significantly spookier than the Haunted Houses of yesteryear.
Are You A Yummy Enthusiast?
The way to Yummy Enthusiasts’ hearts is through their stomachs. If you guessed that this section of people encompasses the enjoyment of food and drink, you guessed right. Talk about saving the best, or at least the tastiest, category for last.
Craft beer lovers, foodies, wine Enthusiasts and candy junkies belong here. This category encompasses everyone from red wine snobs, dedicated TOP CHEF viewers, those with a serious sweet tooth or people who simply enjoy making a nice home cooked meal of Fettucine Alfredo. Let’s take a bite out of this category, starting with…
Estimates peg foodies as roughly 12% of the U.S. adult population, or around 29 million people. Broadly speaking, foodies are cutting-edge consumers who are deeply interested in food and drink. Foodies don’t just eat to for nourishment, they love to experience their food. Given the growth of specialty food sales (which outpaced all U.S. retail food by a margin of three to one last year), this segment of the population will only grow.
Examples of Foodies are those who watch the movie THE GAME CHANGERS and immediately became fervent vegans, people who are on a constant search for the world’s best fried chicken, those who passionately write their own hamburger blogs or even those passionate folks who collect frying pans from the early 1900s.
Not too many beverages inspire songs, but this one certainly did (Red Red Wine, UB40), as anyone who lived through the 80s can attest. The Wine Enthusiast category includes people whose favorite part of the world is the Napa Valley, people who make a habit of watching the film SIDEWAYS a few times per year, those who daydream of becoming a sommelier, and people to whom the maître d’ instinctively hands the wine list so they can pick their favorite Merlot.
The wine industry generates about $220 billion per year in the United States alone. 4.3 billion bottles of wine are sold in America every year, making it by far the largest vino-consuming country in the world. The fact that there’s a magazine called “Wine Enthusiast” says everything you need to know.
Are You An Everything Enthusiast?
There are so many different groups of passionate people in the world. Naturally, some more easily fit into classification categories than others. Despite that fact, those who are passionate about concrete, those who make works of art out of tape, and competitive mooers – yes, competitive mooing is really a thing – are as passionate about their chosen pursuits as anyone.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, neatly fitting into a box isn’t what this is all about. In fact, arguably, it’s the opposite. What’s important is thinking creatively and pursuing your interest in fresh, new ways, however it best suits your needs. Although pursuing your hobbies benefits society from an economic standpoint, at its core, it’s about enhancing your own life and giving it more worth, so do it however you see fit.
“Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow”
That phrase perfectly encapsulates the ultimate goal for some people – to turn their interest into their living. This first requires taking stock of your work life and asking yourself the hard questions like, in an ideal world, what would you do all day? What activity inspires you the most and gets you the most excited? Then, you should ask yourself which professions have the most in common with your hobbies and passions? Is it conceivably possible to turn your hobby or your passion into your profession?
Anecdotally, the happiest and most content people seem to be those that “do what they love” for work. For example, Roger Lubiens, the accountant-turned-farmer exhibitor at the 2020 World Ag Expo, who found a way to turn his childhood experience of growing up on a farm into his living later on in life. Or there’s Dale Beebe, a former McDonnell Douglass / Boeing aerospace electrical engineer, who turned his hobby of fixing fountain pens into a job. He is now the foremost ink release specialist in the vintage Fountain Pen Enthusiast community. Another example is the pop star Billie Eilish, who threw herself into her music at a young age and whose passion simply couldn’t be denied.
These are just a few of people who “followed their bliss” and found that the path led them all the way to their own pot of gold.
The End…Or Is It The Beginning?
It’s such a unique privilege to bring all of the diverse, vibrant categories and groups together into their own communities, under one roof. The world of special interests is vast and infinite, like the great, mighty tundra. Each person brings their own unique perspective, history and intention to their interest, evolves as a person, and contributes to their hobbyist communities in powerful, unexpected ways. Regardless of the diversity of interests that covers the Enthusiast landscape, they all share one thing in common – heat-seeking, adrenaline-pumping enthusiastic ways that runs like blood through their veins whenever they’re doing what they love.
Take the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes to heart - pursue your passion. Not next month, not next week, not tomorrow - today. Take the risk to get out of your comfort zone, pursue that thing you always said that you would do if life didn’t get in the way.
Go at it at full speed, with a lot of love, and you’ll have “a life worth looking at.”